Ghana Election: Nana Akufo-Addo Voted In as New President

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Ghana’s opposition leader was declared the winner of presidential elections late Friday, securing the country’s highest office on his third attempt and helping to cement the West African nation’s reputation as a model for democracy on the continent.

Nana Akufo-Addo, the 72-year old Oxford-educated lawyer and leader of the New Patriotic Party, accepted a concession from President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress. Shortly afterward, Ghana’s Electoral Commission formally declared Mr. Akufo-Addo had won 53.8% of the vote to Mr. Mahama’s 44.4%.

“I make this solemn pledge to you tonight: I will not let you down,” Mr. Akufo-Addo told a jubilant crowd gathered at his residence in the capital, Accra. “I will do all in my power to live up to your hopes and expectations.”

The official result sparked wild celebrations from NPP supporters, who had been gathering and dancing throughout the day as exit polls suggested their party was headed for a clear victory.

The outcome marked the third time since 2000 that a Ghanaian government has been voted out of office, underscoring the country’s record of hotly contested but peaceful elections. The result also capped a remarkable two weeks for politics in West Africa after Gambian President Yahya Jammeh was defeated in elections last week and then on Friday took to the airwaves to ominously announce he rejected the result.

In Ghana, where democratic norms have long been embedded, the result came with only minor infractions. Commentators said the margin of victory would likely prevent the kind of legal challenge to the vote that paralyzed much of the country’s bureaucracy for months after Mr. Akufo-Addo contested Mr. Mahama’s 2012 election victory.

Mr. Mahama addressed his supporters shortly after conceding late Friday. “As president, I have done my bit. I have made a contribution to the political, social and economic development of our country. I would have cherished an opportunity to do even more, but I respect the will of the Ghanaian people,” he said.

Mr. Akufo-Addo, who served as attorney general and foreign minister in the NPP government that held power for eight years starting in 2001, had campaigned to reinvigorate Ghana’s lackluster economy, arguing Mr. Mahama had squandered the country’s commodity wealth and presided over a surge in corruption.

The president-elect must now deliver on pledges to kick-start growth by building more factories and dams, and by offering the equivalent of $1 million for every district for development projects.

His NPP, out of power for eight years, will face serious challenges: Public discontent with the performance of the Ghana’s economy is high, exacerbated by a debt crisis that prompted recurring power shortages and a $918 million bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Though tens of thousands have gathered for festive rallies across the country, a recent poll showed more than 70% of Ghanaians felt their country was headed in the wrong direction.

Ghana was supposed to be a Western-backed model to counterbalance the fast growing economies of more tightly ruled Rwanda and Ethiopia. Weak growth and domestic inertia have stopped it playing that role.

But many voters on the streets of Accra late Friday were hoping the country’s seventh peaceful presidential elections since the end of military rule in 1992 would help reinvigorate Ghana’s place as a leading regional economy.

Israel Bokoy, a paramedic who had attended a series of Mr. Nana’s rallies in the lead up to the poll, said he was confident the new government would quickly boost the economy.

“The economy was the first, second and third reason for voting for change,” he said, rolling his fingers in a movement used by NPP supporters to symbolize the need for a change in government. “Finally now its Mr. Nana’s chance.”


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